Memories: Noddy’s Playtime

  • Publisher: The Jumping Bean Co.
  • Genre: Edutainment
  • Released: 1992
  • Platforms: Amiga, Atari and PC

I used to play Noddy’s Playtime all the time when I was little.

In the game, you drive Noddy around to different sections of Toyland and park outside of different buildings to activate different edutcational minigames. I didn’t really play the games, though. I mostly just drove the car around, because I was convinced that I hadn’t explored all of Toyland yet. The only minigame I really liked was this one where Noddy was arrested and you had to dig him out of jail. I’m not really sure how helping someone escape from jail is supposed to be educational, but there you go.

There was a button that made the horn on Noddy’s car honk. One day, I honked the horn so much that my mother hit me.

You could also run people over.

There’s a weird thing about this game. I can confirm that you could play it on an Amiga or Atari, but I’ve found no mention of it ever being made for PC. We didn’t have an Amiga or an Atari, when I was little, though, so a PC version must have existed, but everyone, except for me, has forgotten about it. Weird.

Memories: Crosscountry Canada

  • Publisher: Didatech
  • Developers:  Dave Vincent and Jimfre Bacal
  • Genre: Edutainment
  • Released: 1991

Crosscountry Canada was the best game ever. Sure, other games from 1991 had 256 colours instead of 4, Midi music instead of PC speaker beeps and mouse controls instead of text parser input, but Crosscountry Canada could do something that no other game at the time could do.

Crosscrountry Canada could get you an entire class period of goofing off on the computer, instead of doing work.

The basic premise of Crosscountry Canada is that you are truck driver picking up goods and delivering them across Canada. Along the way you learn about Canada’s geography and different industries. The only problem was that my school didn’t have a copy of the sheet that told you which cities had which commodities, so we were left to drive our trucks around aimlessly totally unable to win the game.

The the game also had some seedier elements to it. You could choose to speed or pick up hitchhikers, if you wanted to. If you did either of these bad things the only reprecussion was that you’d get a ticket or the hitchhiker would rob you. You seem to have unlimited funds in the game and, most of the time, the hitchhiker would actually reward you with money for driving them around. The lesson to children is that speeding and picking up hitchhikers is fun and profitable.

There were legends that you run over the hitchhiker or he could murder you, but I’ve never actually seen it for myself. Kids thought that you could enter in any command and the game would do it for you, but they were wrong.

A thing that bugs me about this game is that it seriously is spelled “Crosscounty” in the title. How a supposedly educational game could make it to market spelling “Cross Country” all as one word is beyond me.

On the mystical commodities location sheet: I suspect that they didn’t have the locations listed in-game as a form of copy protection. If you didn’t have the manual, you couldn’t beat the game. I also suspect that almost no schools actually bought a legitimate copy of Crosscountry Canada. They copied those floppies. So, if you want to know why Canada has such a “piracy” culture, know that it’s cultivated in our nation’s school computer labs.

a screencap of Crosscountry Canada's copyright notice

Review: PYST

  • Publisher: Parroty Interactive
  • Developer: Entasis
  • Writer: Peter Bergman
  • Released: October 1996
  • Genre: Parody

First off, PYST isn’t really a game. There aren’t any puzzles to solve or any goals to achieve, at all. You just click through the different scenes and find hotspots that play a short animation, FMV or sound clip. It’s little more than an interactive slide show. You can go through the whole thing and see every sight and sound in the “game” in about half an hour. The people who paid full price for it, when it was first released, must have been pissed. It was a whole $15 dollars. Most cellphone games will only run you about a buck and there’s at least something to do in one those.

The plot? This “game” is about what would happen to an island that is very similar to, but, legally distinguishable from Myst, if it were trampled over by 4 million tourists (about the amount of copies of Myst that were sold at the time PYST was published -the joke is that the people that bought Myst actually went there, or something). There’s graffiti everywhere and people have peed on things.

There’s also some jazz about the king of the island, King Mattrus (played by John Goodman(!?)), and his twin sons, Prince Syrrup and the prince formerly known as “Prince”, trying to stop an evil corporation, Octoplex, from putting condos on their island. Or, maybe it was that they wanted to sell their island to the evil corporation to recoup their losses from people wrecking-up the place. I wasn’t really paying attention.

How in the world did they get John Goodman to work on this, you ask? Peter Bergman was one of the members of The Firesign Theatre, a radio comedy troupe formed in the 1960s, that actually still performs today. The group is quite respected in the comedy world, so, I guess, they can ask a lot of comedy type people to work with them, even on a non-game game.

So, wait, how does a radio comedian from the 1960s form a video game company? Ah the pre-dot-com bubble bursting days were a magical and mysterious time, my friends. A magical and mysterious time.

The comedy background really shows in the writing and acting, too. It’s just that you’re too angry that PYST isn’t actually a game to appreciate it.

A bit of an aside, Peter Bergman actually died earlier this year. The man was really funny. I suggest looking at his other work, like Radio Free Oz, to see what he was really about. Radio comedy is a bit of a lost art. People don’t even buy comedy CDs anymore, instead opting for videos of HBO specials and such.

What else is there to say? I guess I should say something about the graphics, since that’s, basically, all this game is. The graphics are a mix of pre-rendered 3d that’s attempting to look photorealistic and what looks to be Microsoft Word clip art that has been animated. It’s weird and I don’t get it.

Here, have a playthrough of the game that I did two years ago:

 Driven, The Sequel to PYST

There was a planned sequel  to PYST, called Driven, but, Parroty Interactive’s parent company, Palladium Interactive, was bought-out by The Learning Company in 1998 and Parroty was dissolved by them, before work on Driven was finished.

All that’s let of Driven is a demo that was included on some PYST Special Edition CD-ROMs.

Here, have a look at it: